Subrosa’s Fun Lil’ List of European Tour Tips

Once I asked another band where they went to make their stickers, but they wouldn’t tell me, citing their need to keep their connections secret so other bands wouldn’t have the same advantage. From that moment on, I made a vow to share every single thing I ever learned that would help another band.

Photo By: Kelly Ashkettle

In that spirit, below are a few helpful things for your band to know if you want to tour Europe. (My band, Subrosa, just went on a 10-day tour there).

1. It takes a lot of money. Did you just inherit a little chunk of change from a deceased aunt? You’re in good shape. Your main reason for touring Europe should be to have fun, to see some of Europe, to take a vacation. Between plane tickets, merch, gas, van and food, we easily spent $7,000. Was it worth it? Hell yes.

Plane Tickets
2. is a great place to go for plane tickets. It searches the search engines.

3. You can DIY a lot of shows in Europe. You can set up European shows over Myspace and the Internet, just like you can shows in the US. You can try to get on a European booking agency, but don’t depend on it. They are as hard to get on as a record label.
4. It helps to have connections. We had a label in Sweden that got us a slot at the Dutch Doom Days festival. Maybe you don’t have a label, but try to nurture some connections by talking to bands in Europe you like; ask for help, or if they’d like to tour together.
5. Start booking 6 months in advance. Four months is doable, but six months is normal for European venues.

Route Planning
6. Limit drive time between cities to under 4 hours. The drive will actually take 5 or 6 hours. People need to take pee breaks, smoke breaks, leg-stretching breaks, photo-taking breaks and if you have two bands traveling together like we did (we toured with Swedish doom band Beneath the Frozen Soil), that amounts to about a break every 40 minutes.
7. Invest in a GPS, or rent one. Ours was named Lisa. We loved Lisa. A GPS is a nice convenience in the US; in Europe I’d say it’s imperative. Can you read German, French, Italian, Slovenian, Hungarian and Dutch road signs? I doubt it.
8. Take a day or two off. Yeah, our schedule was jam-packed, but my one regret is that we didn’t build more time into the tour to sightsee and take a break from driving.

9. The UK requires work permits for bands. Bands technically have to have work permits to play shows in all of Europe, but mainland Europe is far more relaxed about it. Work permits take a long time to get. They’re also expensive. I was quoted $1,000+ for UK work permits. We didn’t play shows in the UK for this reason.
10. If you are playing shows in England, either fly into mainland Europe or mail your merch ahead. If you fly into England with instruments and they find your merch in your suitcases, they will send you home. It happened to The Tremula. If you have to fly into England, spend the $150 to mail the merch ahead of you to someone you know. Don’t put the actual resale value of the T-shirts on the customs form because the person at the other end will pay 20% of that value in taxes.

Photo By: Rebecca Vernon

Roads, Tolls, Borders
11. Budget in tolls if you’re driving through the Alps. We probably paid a total of $30 in toll fees in a day.
12. Get a driving sticker to put in your vehicle window for each country you go through. We got stopped in Austria and had to pay 120 Euros (about $160) for not having this sticker in our window. You can get them at gas stations near the border.
13. Avoid Switzerland if you can. Switzerland will heavily tax any merch you’re taking into the country at their borders. My friend told me Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ships their merch ahead of them when they enter Switzerland so they won’t have any on them when they go through border control.

14. Hostels are not that cheap. If you’re in a band with five people and pay 30 Euro each, 150 Euro ($180) isn’t saving you anything compared to a hotel room. A member of the band who had a travel agent friend who got us good deals on hotel rooms saved us. Find a friend or relative who is or knows a travel agent!
15. Hotels in Europe usually book 2 people max. There are no Holiday Inn double queens. Bring sleeping bags and have people sleep on the floor. Keep in mind that they charge extra for more people staying in a room, so be sneaky.

Jet Lag
16. Plan to arrive in Europe a day early so that you can adjust your sleeping schedule. Then plan on it taking a week to recover when you get back.

Some of this might be obvious to you, but we had to find out a lot of it the hard way. Send me a Myspace message if you have any more questions, or need any contacts at any of the places we played. I’d be more than happy to spill our “secrets.”